Health Care Clinic Director Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $63 Million Fraud Scheme
A former health care clinic director and licensed clinical psychologist pleaded guilty today in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN), announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.
Alina Feas, 53, of Miami, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one substantive count of health care fraud.
During the course of the conspiracy, Feas was employed as a therapist and clinical director of HCSN’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. HCSN operated two community mental health centers in Florida and one community mental health center in North Carolina.
In her capacity as clinical director, Feas oversaw the entire clinical program and supervised therapists and other personnel at HCSN in Florida (HCSN-FL). Feas also conducted group therapy sessions when therapists were absent.
According to court documents, Feas was aware that HCSN-FL paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities (ALF) in Miami-Dade County in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Feas knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because they suffered from either mental retardation, dementia or Alzheimer's disease, which are not effectively treated by PHP services.
Court documents reveal that Feas submitted claims to Medicare for individual therapy she purportedly provided to HCSN-FL patients using her personal Medicare provider number, knowing that HCSN-FL was simultaneously billing the same patients for PHP services. Feas continued to bill Medicare under her personal provider number while HCSN in North Carolina (HCSN-NC) simultaneously submitted false and fraudulent PHP claims.
Feas was aware that HCSN-FL personnel were fabricating patient medical records, according to court documents. Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN-FL for purported PHP treatment and were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Florida Medicaid. During her employment at HCSN-FL, Feas signed fabricated PHP therapy notes and other medical records used to support false claims to government sponsored health care programs.
At HCSN-NC, Feas was aware that her co-conspirators were fabricating medical records to support the fraudulent claims she was causing to be submitted to Medicare. Feas was aware that a majority of the fabricated notes were created at the HCSN-FL facility for patients admitted to HCSN-NC. In some instances, Feas signed therapy notes and other medical records even though she never provided services at HCSN-NC.
According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.
Fifteen defendants have been charged for their alleged roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme, and 13 defendants have pleaded guilty. On April 25, 2013, Wondera Eason was convicted, following a five-day jury trial, on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud for her role in the scheme at HCSN. Alleged co-conspirator Lisset Palmero is scheduled for trial on June 3, 2013. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.
This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina and former Special Trial Attorney William J. Parente. This case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.